Active Listening, is a critical element of the communication process. When you are engaged in active listening, it is important to direct attention to both the verbal and nonverbal cues provided by the other person. Like many other skills, listening requires conscious effort and constant practice. Active listening skills can be improved and enhanced by developing the following attitudes and skills: Hear the speaker outFocus on ideasRemove or adjust distractionsMaintain objectivityConcentrate on the immediate interactionActive listeners encourage the speaker with nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, and verbalizations. Check for understanding by asking questions such as "What did you mean . . . " or "Could you tell me more?" They also restate in their own words what the speaker said. "reflect back" the speaker's feelings, saying things like "It sounds like you're really upset." Only when feelings are acknowledged will the speaker feel heard and understood.
If we are unsure (or even if we feel pretty certain) of what is being communicated then we must clarify it to be sure. If you are doing the communicating ask the other person or the group to tell you what they understood by what you have just said or what you have asked them to do if it is action based. If they have communicated to you then CHECK that you have picked up what they wanted to communicate to you or what action they want you to carry out.Only by clarifying what we believe the meaning of the communication to be can we be really certain that we have FULLY understood.
We are all I am sure aware of the saying about assumptions, however it is crucial that we do not fall into this trap.Assuming we know the answer or what the real issue is without really listening or understanding is a sure fire way of being caught out. Very often our assumptions will be spot on but it is the occasions where they are way off that we regret most. Therefore make sure that you Never act upon non validated assumptions , always ensure that whatever you may have assumed(if you just cant help yourself) has been verified by what you have heard and seen.
A common problem is that we are too often wrapped up in what we are going to say and therefore we miss what is being said.In order to really hear someone we need to be listening to them intently , we cannot do this if we are busy formulating our response to what they are telling us.Focus 100% on what they are saying and what they are doing while they say it to us, resist the temptation to formulate what you are going to say to them while they are still talking .......or worse still tune out and drift off somewhere else !!!
The other very important benefit of Active Listening is that it sends very powerful positive signals to others. I am sure we have all been in situations where we know that the other person is not really listening to a word we say. How does that make us feel ? Are we more or less likely to warm to them and follow any advice or guidance that they give to us...probably not. It has been well documented that as Human beings we are extremely effective at picking up signals from other human beings. Apart from it helping us to understand what is being said, Active listening sends the right signals and messages to others about how much we are paying attention to them.This leads us on to the 2nd Step that is necessary for Communicating Effectively
It has been demonstrated and is a generally accepted principle that it is easier to build good rapport with people if we are in sync with them. Well what do we mean by that and how can we be in sync with someone that we may have never met before ?It has been shown that there are certain things that our unconscious picks up on that allows us to feel very quickly at ease and in sync with people-we may not know why but we just feel comfortable in their presence compared to others. I am sure we all know people whom everyone seems to warm to immediately...there is just “something “ about them.These people may be consciously practicing some of the things I am about to talk about or very often they are themselves doing them unconsciously. Some of the things that I am going to talk about are often labelled as “Mirroring” I am sure we have all heard about the concept of mirroring what other people do e.g. Cross your legs when they do uncross them when they do etc, well that is an extremely clumsy way of doing what we are about to hear about and honestly is more often very irritating and annoying than beneficial.With practice however there are far more subtle and effective ways of mirroring that don’t end up becoming annoying or just plain weird and help very quickly to put people at ease and allow them to feel comfortable in your presence.
The second thing to be aware of is Tonality, people pick up messages from the tone of your voice.How you say the same thing can be picked up very differently , it would be very difficult to convey patience and understanding if you are shouting at the top of your voice, an extreme example but you get what I mean. Often we allow other things that are bothering us to be conveyed in our tone, we can be more clipped or abrupt if we are stressed or under pressure.It is very important that we focus on the appropriate tone of voice for the situation regardless of what may have just been happening before or what is going to have to happen after, an appropriate tone can make a huge difference to the value of any communication or interaction. If someone is upset or distressed you may find it beneficial to lower your voice and speak more softly and slowly-again these are not likely to be new principles necessarily but being able to do them naturally and without thinking takes practice and effort.Speaking slowly and deliberately prefaced with something like “ I really need you to hear this and understand it....... often can be very powerful when you need to get something important across to people.As well as assisting communication generally using the appropriate tone can also make people feel at ease and in rapport with you, a cheery Good Morning and the use of a persons name can go a really long way in helping them feel in sync with you.
Every second of our lives, millions of bits of information are streaming through our five senses into our minds, but only a fraction gets consciously registered. It follows then that we cannot truly know the world as it is, not only because our conscious awareness is limited, but even that tiny bit that gets in we experience through the conscious and unconscious filters that we have, like our beliefs, values and states.Because everyone experiences the world differently, others may have a different experience of reality than you do, and it’s not about being any more right or wrong than yours is, it is about how they see things compared to everyone else. You or they might have lived your whole life believing something is so, but just because you believed in it didn’t necessarily make it so. If we can understand what they “believe” then we can understand how they may relate to situations and be better able to communicate effectively with them using their beliefs and filters rather than our own.Someone might have had one lousy experience in the past, and formed that belief. As the years went by, they might have forgotten how that belief got formed, and taken that habitual belief to be fact: to them that’s how the world ‘really’ is.People respond according to their 'maps'. The human mind has a special capability. It can give meaning to things. As we grow up in the world, we experience things and give meaning to them according to the map that we have. Most people think everything they think and feel is REAL. Respect that. Rapport is created when you can step into that person's model of the world (even if you don't want to stay there). If we can understand how they see things or even just that they may see things differently then it will better allow us to make some suggestions as to how they may be able to look at things differently and see a better or different outcome
The two basic modes of communication are verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication is either spoken or written. Verbal communication involves the use of words. Nonverbal communication, on the other hand, does not involve the use of words. Dress, gestures, touching, body language, face and eye behavior, and even silence are forms of nonverbal communication. Remember that even though there are two forms of communication, both the verbal and the nonverbal are inseparable in the total communication process. Conscious awareness of this fact is extremely important because our effectiveness in many situations is highly dependent upon successful communication. The most powerful mode of communication is the non verbal mode although commonly it is the one most often ignored or neglected and we put the majority of our efforts into what we say forgetting about the far more powerful non verbal channel.
Space or ProxemicsPeople often refer to their need for “personal space,” which is also an important type of nonverbal communication. The amount of distance we need and the amount of space we perceive as belonging to us is influenced by a number of factors including social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics, and level of familiarity. For example, the amount of personal space needed when having a casual conversation with another person usually varies between 18 inches to four feet. On the other hand, the personal distance needed when speaking to a crowd of people is around 10 to 12 feet.ProxemicsProxemics is the study of how people use and perceive the physical space around them. The space between the sender and the receiver of a message influences the way the message is interpreted.The perception and use of space varies significantly across cultures and different settings within cultures. Space in nonverbal communication may be divided into four main categories: intimate, social, personal, and public space.(Scott Mclean, 1969) The distance between communicators will also depend on sex, status, and social role.Proxemics was first developed by Edward T Hall during the 1950s and 60s. Hall's studies were inspired by earlier studies of how animals demonstrate territoriality The term territoriality is still used in the study of Proxemics to explain human behavior regarding personal space.
Continued from previous pageStudies have identified 4 such territories:Primary territory: this refers to an area that is associated with someone who has exclusive use of it. For example, a house that others cannot enter without the owner’s permission.Secondary territory: unlike the previous type, there is no “right” to occupancy, but people may still feel some degree of ownership of a particular space. For example, someone may sit in the same seat on train every day and feel aggrieved if someone else sits there.Public territory: this refers to an area that is available to all, but only for a set period, such as a parking space or a seat in a library. Although people have only a limited claim over that space, they often exceed that claim. For example, it was found that people take longer to leave a parking space when someone is waiting to take that space.Interaction territory: this is space created by others when they are interacting. For example, when a group is talking to each other on a footpath, others will walk around the group rather than disturb it.It is important that we are able to ensure that we use our knowledge of space appropriately to ensure that we are engaging effectively with others. Using space can help us communicate levels of importance as well as empathy and understanding.
Gestures are often far more powerful than words .They may be articulated with the hands, arms or body, and also include movements of the head, face and eyes, such as winking nodding, or rolling one's eyes. The boundary between language and gesture, or verbal and nonverbal communication, can be hard to identify.Psychologists Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen suggested that gestures could be categorised into five types: emblems, illustrators, affect displays, regulators, and adaptors.Emblems are gestures with direct verbal translations, such as a goodbye wave;Illustrators are gestures that depict what is said verbally, such as turning an imaginary steering wheel while talking about driving;An affect display is a gesture that conveys emotions, like a smile;Regulators are gestures that control interaction; Finally, an adaptor is a gesture that facilitates the release of bodily tension, such as quickly moving one's legGestures can be also be categorised as either speech-independent or speech-related. Speech-independent gestures are dependent upon culturally accepted interpretation and have a direct verbal translation . A wave hello or a peace sign are examples of speech-independent gestures. Speech related gestures are used in parallel with verbal speech; this form of nonverbal communication is used to emphasize the message that is being communicated. Speech related gestures are intended to provide supplemental information to a verbal message such as pointing to an object of discussion.We can use gestures to aid us in our communication but also we should be watching and observing very carefully to seek clues from others as to what they are really communicating, often gestures can give us more understanding than what people are saying. Sometimes gestures will conflict with what is being said usually the gestures are more representative of what is meant or really going on.
Body Language will often clarify ambiguity or uncertainty often you will notice that people say one thing and their body language says another. We also have to ensure that OUR Body language is appropriate and gives the right signals to those that we are communicating with.You may have your voice and words under control, but your body language including the tiniest facial expressions and movement can give your true thoughts and feelings away.Recognize that people communicate on many levels . Become accustomed to watching nonverbal communication and your ability to read it will grow dramatically with practice.If a person’s words say one thing and their nonverbal communication says another, you are wont to listen to the nonverbal communication – and that is usually the correct decision.Probe nonverbal communication during a meeting or other situation in which you need facts and believable statements. Again, the nonverbal may reveal more than the person’s spoken words.Be aware of non-verbal communication and keep it consistent with your message
Recognize that people communicate on many levels. Watch their facial expressions, eye contact, posture, hand and feet movements, body movement and placement, and appearance and passage as they walk toward you. Every gesture is communicating something if you listen with your eyes.Probe nonverbal communication during an investigation or other situation in which you need facts and believable statements. Again, the nonverbal may reveal more than the person’s spoken words.The ability to recognize and interpret nonverbal responses depends upon consistent development of observation skills. Your growth in both knowledge and understanding will contribute to an ability to recognize and interpret many kinds of nonverbal communication. Your sensitivity and competence in listening with your eyes will become as refined as-if not better than-listening with your ears.
Take great care with your eye contact - don't stare or avert your eyes from theirs. Be aware of how often you blink. To prevent a staring gaze, try to blink more often. Also develop a natural gaze not a fixed look. Many people lock onto one eye or a spot on their nose but the trick is to gaze at the persons face. Start looking at one eye, slowly move to the next and then to the mouth in a triangular fashion. This gaze is very welcoming, warm and friendly.As you listen , move your head backwards an inch or two. This is a non-aggressive gesture and creates a good impression. At the same time tilt your head slightly to one side - not too much - just enough to lower your height by a centimetre. Again this is a non aggressive gesture designed to lower your customer's guard towards you as a person.Eye contact can be many things depending on how it is used, it can be welcoming, sympathetic, aggressive or dismissive, it is extremely powerful if used wisely.These little techniques do work - try them.
We all have five senses that we use constantly namely, Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Gustatory, and Olfactory. There is a school of thought that says people have a tendency to have a learning and understanding style that they use more often than others. Hence why we hear people are “Visual People” or “Auditory People” It is believed by some that if we match the type of language that people tend to use not only does it build rapport but they will retain and learn better.Hence if we recognise that someone tends to use certain language patterns more often, “Do you see what I mean “, “That would look lovely” (Visual). “I hear what you are saying, That sounds fine to me ( Auditory)“ It just doesn't feel right, “ “I cant get a grasp on that” ( Kinaesthetic)We should aim to speak to them in similar language even if it is not how we would normally phrase things, this approach is believed to enhance peoples understanding and retention as it mimics how their own Brain and neurology functions.Listen to people as they speak to you and see if you can ascertain a pattern to the TYPE of words they use to describe things and try to structure your sentences in a similar fashion.
Often we get caught in a trap when trying to communicate, particularly if the subject area is challenging or difficult or we are nervous of saying too much or being afraid of silence and filling in the gaps. This most often ends up being counterproductive as we end up diluting the message that we want to get across. If you have followed the earlier advice you will know explicitly what you are needing and wanting to say .Once you have communicated this succinctly, then your job is done and you need not say any more, then may be an appropriate time to clarify if the other party has heard and understood what you have said. If not then reiterate what you were trying to get across and check again for understanding, avoid the temptation to start to elaborate or go into greater detail than is necessary to get across what you have previously deemed you wanted to communicate.Silence is often far more powerful than the spoken word, it can be excruciatingly difficult to say what you need to say and then say no more , but often we need to do this and be prepared to wait for a reaction or response before we can decide what is best to do or say next.
Questions should be welcomed as they show interest and engagement, if you are asked questions then answer them straightforwardly and succinctly utilising all the previous insights and information we have talked about in this workshop. Once you have answered a question then it is important that you follow up your answer by ensuring you have answered the question to the satisfaction of the person that asked it.
Continually as you are communicating and particularly where areas are complex and or important you should be constantly checking understanding as you go along. If you fail to do this then it is highly probable that you will have failed somewhere to get across what you need to and therefore the purpose of your communication i.e. “the transmission of meaning to others” will have been unsuccessful.Where there is a requirement on some action from those that your are communicating with this is of even greater importance as you need to know not only do they understand what you have been aiming to get across but do they know what is expected of them ?Often in situations where there is a perceived or real disparity either in hierarchy or competence between two parties it is difficult for one of the parties to feel confident in interrupting or volunteering they do not feel they fully understand. In this situation take responsibility for checking that there is clear understanding of what has been discussed and any action that needs to happen.
We often use ambiguity to cope with predicaments, difficult situations, and conflict situations. A team member who just gave a fairly bad but somewhat inconsequential presentation, may ask "How did I do?“ How do you respond? You may say something like: "Probably better than I would have done," or "I've never seen a presentation like it." Such messages may not satisfy the other person, but they assist you in managing a difficult situation and preserving the peace of work relations. Since our primary purpose in communicating is to get our message across and to have people understand, then it will not be helpful if we allow much ambiguity to creep in to our communication. Difficult as it may be , sometimes to really communicate effectively we must refrain from using ambiguity in order to make our life easier if it leaves the other person confused and lacking in understanding.
Presentation on communication
• Communication is a process of
passing information, ideas or beliefs
from one person to another so they are
understood and can be used
It seems simple.
But how many times have you misinterpreted what
someone was saying to you?
The Listening Challenge
Switched off due to bias
(jargons, accent, culture etc.)
What to say next
Losing interest in
what is being said
Three steps to communicate effectively….
• Step 1
• Listen: don’t hear
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND
Active Listening is necessary for
two way communication
Do You Listen To Answer Or Listen To Understand?
If you listen to answer, you
are losing your audience.
This can sometimes
appear cold and
If you listen to understand,
you are providing a much
more personal approach